I’m thrilled to host today’s slot on the blog tour for Keep Me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti and to help celebrate its publication today in paperback. I’m pleased to say I have an extract from the book to give you a little taster of just why Keep Me Safe has garnered so much praise and why so many readers love Daniela’s books.
Praise for Keep Me Safe:
‘I fell in love with this book’ (Prima magazine)
‘Beautifully written and atmospheric… I adored Keep Me Safe’ (The Sun)
‘I couldn’t put it down’ (Daily Mail)
‘Heart-warming and mysterious with great atmosphere’ (Katie Fforde)
‘I was hooked from the beginning, rooting for the mystery to be unravelled. Softly paced yet captivating. I loved Keep Me Safe’ (Alice Peterson)
‘Heart-warming and intriguing. An absorbing and mysterious journey to Seal, a place I already want to revisit’ (Dani Atkins)
About the Book
When Anna’s partner walks away from their relationship, she is shattered. But it is her little girl Ava who takes it hardest of all. The six year old falls silent for three days. When she does speak, her words are troubling. Ava wants to go home. To a place called Seal. To her other mother. Anna knows to unravel the mystery she must find Seal and take Ava there. She hopes this tiny island will unlock her daughter’s memories.
But could it also offer a new life… and unexpected love… for Anna too?
Format: Paperback (352 pp.) Publisher: Headline
Published: 7th September 2017 Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Find Keep Me Safe on Goodreads
Extract: Keep Me Safe (Seal Island #1) by Daniela Sacerdoti
Where I am, there is no day and no night, there is no time. There is nobody but me, and all these little flames that move and flicker, even without wind. Sometimes I feel whirlpools brushing past me, touching me with wispy, invisible hands, their breaths and sighs cold against me. I hear them whisper, talk about their lives and their deaths, and I listen.
So many stories.
So much love and pain and happiness and sadness, so many lives and so many deaths. I try to call, I try to stop them, so I can speak to them. But they never listen, they never stop. They flow and float away, invisible currents of fog inside fog. All that is left is a little flame gleaming in the distance, and a memory, a shadow of their story – and I’m alone again.
I know things now, things I used to not know before. I listened to the whispers for so long, I’ve known so many lives. I was a child but I’m not a child any more, for all I know and for all I have heard. I dive into the sea of souls and listen to the voices of those here with me. I listen and I know what they carry in their hearts.
I remember my time as a child. I remember when the sea came, and how it was stronger than me, stronger than those who loved me. I’d always known the sea wanted me; I’d been nearly taken when I wasn’t much older than a baby, but my father held on to me and took me home, dripping and distraught, and he and my mum said to each other what a freak accident, how could it have happened, I was watching her, I really was, I know you were, thank goodness she’s here, you brought her home.
And now the sea was back for me. I screamed in my child’s heart: please let me go.
Please let me go home.
Please, sea, don’t take me.
Please, sea, give me back.
I cried and cried and thought I need to breathe, I need to breathe – but I couldn’t feel my tears in the water that was all around me, I couldn’t fill my lungs with air. And then everything was peaceful, black and warm. I didn’t hurt any more, I wasn’t cold any more. I’m saved, I thought. But I wasn’t saved, I was drowned.
When the darkness disappeared and my eyes could see again, there was a golden light in front of me. From the light I heard voices calling my name, calling me to go with them. The light pulled me and pulled me, just like the sea that drowned me; and the voices were tender, promising to enfold me with love, and I wanted to reach them, I wanted their embrace because I’d been so scared and in so much pain. But I needed my mum and dad. I couldn’t go in there, I couldn’t leave them behind. I couldn’t leave my family.
And so I turned away from the golden light – and then the greyness and loneliness frightened me, because it was all so desolate, like I was the last person in the world, the only one left. I turned back, but the light and the voices were gone. I was left in the grey and the lonely.
Little lights appeared all around, over my head, under my feet; little flickering flames.
And now I am here, and I wander and listen, and sometimes I cry, sometimes I sing tunes I used to know. Everything is grey and soft, like walking in cotton wool.
I am not sure if a long time has passed or just a little while.
I don’t know where I am.
I just know I want to go home.
Whispers echo in the fog, my soft sobs, the tunes I hum. They come back to me a hundred times. But then, one day – if there’s such a thing as day where I am – I hear something else, something that is not an echo. Someone calling. The flames all around dance and dance, like they’ve heard her too, and whirlpools move the fog in slow currents. I walk among the little candles and follow the voice – joy overwhelms me, and I haven’t felt joy in so long, so long, it’s like I feel it for the first time. It’s all new and warm, it feels like sunshine, and I want to laugh and cry at the same time, and I run, run towards whoever is calling me. It must be my family, it must be. It’s me, I’m here, I cry without noise – I put my hands up in the white fog and the sound of calling and crying is everywhere, please, Mum, hold my hands and take me home – and she does, she holds my hands and pulls me through.
Everything is black for a moment, and then I open my eyes.
Snow in March
When Ava started inside me, sudden and surprising like snow in March, I didn’t have time to ask myself the reasons for such a miracle. I was working too hard, worrying too hard. With all the practical problems and the morning sickness and trying to stay awake during my night shifts, I didn’t have much time left to consider what was happening: a human being had taken up residence in my belly, and was growing, growing. Somebody with eyes and ears and hands and legs and a heart. And more; she was more than a body and its parts. A soul lived inside this body‑in‑the-making, a consciousness, a set of feelings and emotions and thoughts like sparks inside her tiny brain.
I fretted about how I’d look after a baby, with my shifts and little money and no family at hand to help, while the man who did this to me in the first place was lost in one crazy project or another. He was forever wheeling and dealing somewhere while I threw up and cried and surveyed the wards full of new mums, their babies beside them in plastic cots, not quite believing I would be one of them soon. I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, I had strange dreams, dreams of water and the sea and grey waves swallowing me. And then Toby would caress my barely-there bump and promise me the world, promise our baby the world – I didn’t believe him any more, of course, but I didn’t want my child to grow up without a father, like me.
I knew she was a girl. And not just any girl – she was Ava. I loved her with an intensity that blew me away. Somehow, in the lottery of procreation, one I witnessed every day in my job, this baby, this baby and no other, among the millions of possible genetic combinations, had been given to me. An old rhyme came into my mind, one my Scottish grandmother used to sing:
Of all the babies who swam in the sea Ava was the one for me . . .
While I was making beds, or fetching nappies for the midwives, or cleaning up mess, I was aware of her, like a constant song in the back of my mind. My belly grew, the fears grew, my love for her grew. In this city of eight million people, I thought as I contemplated the London skyline out of the staffroom window, there was now one more.
Months went by as my secret came into the light, my bump too big to hide. Ava talked to me in every way but words. I know you, baby – I’ve known you forever, I thought as I chose curtains for her nursery, and a Moses basket, and I dreamt of the day I’d hold her in my arms. I love you, I’ve loved you forever, I whispered to her as we lay in bed in the middle of the day, waiting for another exhausting night shift.
I lay half naked with a little thing breaking me from the inside, my body clamping onto itself over and over again. When she finally came out, after what seemed like days, I looked into her eyes, semi-blind and alien black, and I had the strangest thought: that I had fooled myself believing I knew her, this little soul that had sat inside me waiting, this creature I’d been a vessel for.
I didn’t know her at all. I had no idea who she was. I never told anyone about what came into my mind the moment she was born – about the way I didn’t recognise her like I thought I would, and how that feeling of of course, it was you all along never happened for me. A sense of knowing the creature that has been inside you for nine months and finally getting to meet her – it wasn’t like that. I didn’t know her, I never had known her. She was somebody other from the little life I had imagined.
It would have been impossible to explain such a weird sensation. People don’t talk about these things anyway, and your head is all over the place after you’ve given birth. You’re bound to have strange thoughts.
I soon forgot all about it as Ava grew into herself and I grew into my new life, a life where it was Ava and Anna, our little family.
My daughter’s eyes have lost their alienness and now she’s fully here, fully herself. Now, I do know her. Ava Elizabeth Hart, six years old, happy and chatty and lively and fearless like I never was, so different from me and yet so much mine, a part of Toby and me and yet herself.
But when it all began, when Ava told me about a life she had without me, with people I didn’t know – that day I thought again of the moment she was born. I thought of the moment they placed her gently in my arms, wrapped in a white blanket, my blood still encrusted in her hair, and she opened those other-worldly eyes and the first thing I thought was I love you, and the second was Where were you before?
About the Author
Daniela Sacerdoti is a mother and a writer. Born in Naples, but brought up in a small village in the Italian Alps, she lives near Glasgow with her husband and sons. She steals time to write when everyone has gone to bed, or before they wake up. She’s a Primary teacher, but she chose to be at home with her children. She loves being with her boys, reading anything she can get her hands on and chatting with her girlfriends. But she also adores being on her own, free to daydream and make up stories.
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